HOLLIS — A new monthly program in Hollis is all about encouraging camaraderie between citizens and members of their local police force.
Held the first Tuesday of every month in the community room at town hall, the Hollis Police Department’s “Coffee With a Cop” is about breaking barriers and building public confidence, one mug at a time.
For 90 minutes each month, residents of all ages can stop in for a complimentary cup of coffee and the chance to freely converse with local cops. There’s no word yet on whether or not donuts will be served.
A national initiative supported by the U.S. Justice Department, the Coffee With A Cop program is active in 175 cities and towns spread across 36 states, though only a handful of programs are offered in New Hampshire.
The first Coffee With A Cop programs were launched in California in 2011, after members of the Hawthorne police force began brainstorming ways to more successfully interact with the citizens they served each day.
After inviting the community to stop by for a free cup of Joe at their local McDonald’s one morning, the program soon soared in popularity and was even written about in a law enforcement journal.
According to the organization’s website, other Coffee With a Cop events are held monthly in Lincoln, Waterville Valley, Durham and Milford.
Hollis Police Lt. Richard Mello, who said he learned about the program from reading a news article about another community that had seen much success with the program, hosted the first coffee meeting in early April.
Concerned that the majority of residents’ interactions with law enforcement tend to occur during emergencies or adverse and emotional situations, the local police force, which has about 17 members, recognized the need for building better bridges.
“I couldn’t believe how many people showed up that first day,” Mello said on Friday. “Around 50 or 60 people walked through that door in an hour and a half.”In Waterville Valley, the program continues to grow in popularity since its inception last winter.
Waterville Valley Police Chief David Noyes said the opportunity for citizens to ask questions and address concerns in a non-threatening environment has definitely resonated with the community, noting that, “there are very few opportunities we get to interface with the public.”
Mello, a 13-year veteran of the Hollis police force, said he hopes more of his neighbors will become friendly acquaintances.
“I’d say about half of the people who stopped by last month are people I’ve never seen before,” he noted.
The next Coffee With a Cop will take place Tuesday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Hollis Town Hall, located at 7 Monument Square.